Media Contacts

Julie Kiefer

Manager, Science Communications, University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs
Phone: 801-587-1293

Sep 01, 2016 11:05 PM

Richard King, M.D., Ph.D.

(SALT LAKE CITY) -An experimental Alzheimer’s drug is stirring excitement as the first to show promise in slowing the pace of dementia. A preliminary study showed that the drug aducanumab reduced the hallmark amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Patients also showed signs of mental recovery, even though the study was designed to test the drug’s safety. The initial results came from a clinical trial that treated 165 Alzheimer’s patients for one year.

“These results are very exciting,” says Alzheimer’s specialist Richard King, M.D., Ph.D., who was not an author on the study. He is an investigator at the Center for Alzheimer’s Care Imaging and Research and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “However there are still questions that remain to be answered.”

King is local director for a larger clinical trial that is testing the drug more rigorously. The study is sponsored by the Massachussets-based pharmaceutical company, Biogen, that developed aducanumab. The University of Utah is one of 70 sites from across the country that will enroll a total of 2,700 participants who will receive monthly infusions of the drug for 24 months. Participants will receive brain scans to monitor the status of amyloid plaques and check for other abnormalities. Other study procedures include neuropsychological testing to determine how treatment impacts memory, learning, and brain processing.

“One of the main reasons I’m interested in this work is that it will help clarify the cause of Alzheimer’s,” says King. If the drug effectively reduces amyloid plaques and slows memory loss, the results would support the idea that the sticky obstructions cause Alzheimer’s. The idea was put forth 25 years ago, but the failure of other recent clinical trials that have targeted the amyloid plaques has cast doubt on hypothesis. The implications are that if initial observations hold true in the larger study, the treatment could potentially be used to prevent Alzheimer’s rather than merely slow its progression. “The implications are significant and gives me hope for the clinical trial we are doing now.”

King says it could take 3 to 5 years for results from the new, larger study to be published.

Alzheimer's dementia CACIR